The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Hungarian!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, is now available in Hungarian. The report makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of  development aid practitioners. The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level  by looking at local assets (financial and otherwise) and by building capacity and trust for addressing  community needs and priorities.

Translations of the report are now available in 14 different languages!

When the trouble came to our house: How one Ukrainian community philanthropy organization is responding

Inna Starchikova The last six months have shocked the Ukraine. Unexpectedly, the state met problems with its integrity under the influence of our neighbour, Russia; citizens sought to stop the creation of an authoritarian regime and are trying to restore democracy. And finally, as the world is aware, we have a war in our east territory, leaving the rest of the country to try to solve all of these problems that have accumulated. It sounds like a lot of challenges for the Ukrainian state and citizens because it is. But, interestingly enough, this period of time has also yielded quite a bit of new information about philanthropy – examples and useful models – that can perhaps be used to define the main trends and risks affecting the sector for the next three to five years. Qualitative analysis of all of this information is still waiting to be explored more deeply, but I can already share some early observations:

1. Most NGOs and foundations lost “urgent charity” to social media. During this crisis, the main flows of charitable help from citizens went into bank accounts of individuals (via online donations), largely outside of the foundation sphere and without official records (money-boxes). This was especially highlighted at the local level, where calls for help from within informal networks evoked the greatest trust, and therefore response. People didn’t care at all about the tax implications of such donations. This was the situation we experienced in our city (Odessa), though it was common across the Ukraine.

2. There have been attempted raids on charitable foundations located away from the military zone. Some years ago we tried to discuss this problem, as well as possible mechanisms to counter it, with our colleagues at a national conference, but without success. There have already been several attacks this year aimed at different foundations. One of these raids received wide publicity (not to mention millions of Hryvnia, our currency, for the families of those killed at Maidan) and became a scandal, with members of the Ukrainian Philanthropists Forum getting involved with a team of lawyers.

3. Odd crowdfunding companies for government institutions have emerged. For example, the Ukraine has been left with a very weakened army. Citizens continue to pay taxes to maintain it, despite the lack of investigation or punishment to identify who was responsible for its destruction in the first place. Furthermore, instead of reporting what is happening with the millions of public funds being devoted to the army’s budget, there has been an enormous campaign in the mass media for charity donations to the army using modern mobile channels. In the end, it is likely that the same army generals who were involved in the first plundering have raised millions from patriotic citizens. These kinds of donations carry huge commissions in the Ukraine (more than 30% to business providers), but authorities never seem to mention this in their reports. Such “transparency” raises further concerns regarding possible abuses. There are additional risks associated with charity in the Ukraine, which means there is a need to reconsider conventional ways of providing international assistance as well as domestic help. We have preferred to deal with existing regional partners during this period, who have already proved their competences and capabilities.

On 2nd May there was a tragedy in Odessa, where we live and work, which garnered the world’s attention. Numerous citizens were killed. It was impossible for us to believe that dozens of inhabitants could be killed in this European city; the city was blanketed with confusion and depression. Our foundation provided different support after that, but I think that the greatest help was our psychological support: we returned faith to the people and to the community of thousands of residents by delivering messages and support through social media during the first evening and all night after tragedy. More information on the events in Odessa can be found in the “Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine” published by Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights  on 15th June 2014. It has a large section entitled “Investigations into Human Rights Violations Related to the Violence in Odesa on 2nd May.”

I’d like to offer a few words and some comments which you cannot find in this report. We were also interested in determining the causes of the tragedy with a view to preventing such incidences in the future. However, our goal was not to punish the perpetrators or official groups involved, but rather to check the “state of health” of the whole community. We asked members of the community two closed-ended questions, with the possibility to add comments, as well as their own answers. Below, the findings:

Causes of the tragedy: What did you personally do wrong, which allowed the tragedy to happen on 2nd May in Odessa?
I failed to stop a friend who went to earn money for their participation in the meeting 0
I was not on the front lines to prevent conflict 7.41
I previously did not take action around the accountability of authorities 18.52
I did not support the earlier actions that could have prevented the tragedy 22.22
My actions, as well as inaction, could not have led to the tragedy of 2nd May 51.85
Further prevention: What steps will you take to reduce the risk of recurrence of such tragedies in Odessa? 
I will avoid participating in paid rallies and will discourage my friends from doing the same 38.57
I will avoid any mass gatherings 12.86
I’ll be sure to respond to the unscrupulous actions of the authorities 37.14
I will maintain regular contact with authorities 2.86
I will participate in manifestations against the abuse of authority 8.57
I will support activities reputable for me, including financially 0
I do not plan to do anything to prevent the tragedy in the future 0


We often try to use such quick instruments in order to accelerate our own internal reflections (and sometimes for proactive engagement). Our foundation developed its own direct “digital channels” to the community with the help and support of the GFCF. This table contains important information for better understanding the current, complex situation, as well as specific roles for community philanthropy organizations (CPO) in the future.

In my opinion, the main role of CPOs is the same as anywhere: to support community development based on a community’s needs and resources. At the same time, situations such as the one unfolding in Ukraine, set specific (not to mention challenging) tasks for CPOs. It is very important for us to understand what can be implemented without our involvement, and what has a high demand but little chance to be realized without our participation. A time of turmoil and change requires crisis management, when we should be focusing our efforts on the changes that the community really needs. We’ve already started supporting the design of a more modern system to encourage better self-government based on IT, mobile technologies, and the concept of direct democracy. This can enforce people’s participation in decision-making at the local level and can also provide new opportunities for monitoring local authorities as well as preventing conflicts. We are going to implement it first with civil society organizations, with an eye to further developing this infrastructure by the time of the 2015 local elections in the Ukraine. At the same time, our region still is at risk of falling back into conflict. We as an organization will therefore be focusing on building our capacity to work with larger humanitarian aid bodies, as well as to deliver conflict resolution services.

We didn’t imagine that the trouble would come to our house. Sometimes it’s scary and sometimes it’s deeply frustrating. However, many people living in Odessa greatly appreciate the place, and with this great, common love we move forward together, inspired to look for solutions even in the most dire of situations.

Inna Starchikova is Executive Director of the Charity Fund “Moloda Gromada” (“Young Community’) in Odessa, Ukraine

Building the future you want to see: What role for community foundations in China?

“Are there community foundations in China?” Over the last few years, as China’s home-grown philanthropy sector has grown dramatically, I have heard a variety of answers to this question. They have ranged from a simple “No”, to “one” to “at least 30”.

Community foundation “head-counts” are obviously helpful when it comes to mapping the growth of the global field. But what is perhaps more interesting is to look beyond the numbers and explore what role local philanthropic foundations might be able to play in China in fostering community initiatives, promoting cross-sectoral collaborations and mobilizing local resources and assets, particularly at a time when China’s rapid urbanisation means that the state is struggling to provide everything for its citizens and when it is also apparently beginning to realise that there may be a role for NGOs (long-suspected by the state), at least in the delivery of social services.

These were some of the questions that were on the table at the first “Local Community Foundations Development Forum” held in Guangzhou on May 29th 2014, and organized by the Guandong Harmony (Community) Foundation (GHF) and Sun Yat-Sen University School of Philanthropy. There was standing-room only at the day-long meeting, which was the first of its kind, and which brought together the leaders of various government charitable federations, independent and community foundations as well as government representatives and students from the university’s civil society and philanthropy departments. En route to the meeting, via Singapore and Beijing, I had been reliably informed a number of times that Guangzhou – which is the centre of China’s huge industrial heartland – has long held a reputation for independent thinking and liberal ideas, “a cradle for reforms and revolutions”. So it was perhaps no surprise that this forum – which provided a first opportunity for foundation leaders and board members to discuss some of the “nuts and bolts” of philanthropic practice such as grantmaking etc., – also touched on global philanthropic trends, namely community foundations and how this flexible form had been adapted and adopted in other parts of the world.

Since 2004, when new regulations on foundations were introduced, Chinese philanthropy has certainly seen a rapid growth. In 2013, the China Foundation Center recorded that were 3,608 foundations in China, with total giving amounting to RMB 29 billion (about US $4.6 billion). When you look at the numbers more closely, however, the picture becomes more complex and perhaps less rosy. There are only 1,400 independent foundations (the rest are so-called “GONGOs” or government-operated non-governmental organizations). And of these 1,400, 400 were established by companies and another 900 by celebrities and academics. This means that although, according to the Economist, China had 358 billionaires at the end of 2013, very few of these rich individuals and their families are setting up foundations. In fact, in terms of charitable giving, China ranks among the world’s worst. According to the World Giving Index 2013, an annual survey by the Charities Aid FoundationChina ranked 115 among 135 countries for donating money and last for volunteering.

So what are some of the barriers to building a culture of philanthropy in China? In a recent interview with Alliance magazine, He Daofeng, executive president of the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation (a GONGO, turned independent foundation), Chair of the China Foundation Center and winner of this year’s Olga Alexeeva Memorial Prize for Emerging Markets Philanthropy, shared his views. These included, “selfishness and ideology, driven by market economic mechanisms”, “lack of religious faith and shared values”, the bad reputation of GONGOs and a lack of trusted and independent NGOs.

The legal framework for philanthropy in China has also made fundraising from the public (and therefore fostering a culture of community philanthropy) very difficult. Although groups might be allowed to receive public donations, few are allowed to engage in actual public fundraising without going through a GONGO. And while China has over half a million registered NGOs, according to the Economist, many of these are “quasi-official or mere shell entities attempting to get government money.” Furthermore, although another 1.5 million NGOs are estimated to exist, these are all unregistered, moving them off the radar of most local donors.

My task at the meeting in Guangzhou was to provide a snapshot of how the global community philanthropy field has evolved, from the Cleveland Foundation, and its founder, Frederick Gough, and his bold vision to pool the charitable resources of Cleveland’s philanthropists, living and dead, into a single permanent endowment for the betterment of the city (now valued at US $1.8 billion), to Russia, to Brazil, to Zimbabwe. The Russian experience of community foundation development was of particular interest. Although the two countries have taken different routes in terms of economic and political liberalization, a number of parallels can be drawn when it comes to the development of civil society / philanthropic sector, low levels of public trust and the need to tread sensitively around a suspicious state. While the US is often taken as a main reference point for many things in China, when it comes to community foundation development Russia would seem to be a more relevant comparison at present. Not only are there now over 50 community foundations and community foundation-like organizations in Russia, but the role of bridge-building philanthropy support organizations and membership associations such as CAF Russia, the various community foundation networks and the Russia Donors Forum, in contributing to the growth of the philanthropic sector is clear. In China, such organizations are still thin on the ground.

Jiangang Zhu (centre) with philanthropy colleagues, at Sun-Yat-sen University

Looking forward – fostering an ecosystem for philanthropy

In his comments, one of the meeting hosts, the dynamic, visionary and multi-talented Jiangang Zhu, professor of the School of Sociology and Anthropology at Sun Yat-sen University, executive director of the Center on Philanthropy, director of the Institute for Civil Society and a board member of the Guangdong Harmony Foundation, observed that the community foundation concept represented a “higher level task” for Chinese philanthropy because, unlike private foundations, its multi-stakeholder governance structure required that different “forces” or groups needed to overcome their differences and come together. This in itself has the potential to be quite transformational in China. In addition, he said, it would be important to foster broader networks and support structures for philanthropy so that an “ecosystem” could begin to develop.


Guandong Harmony (Community) Foundation: very much a dot on the community foundation map

A “village within the city”, where many migrant workers liveThe day after the conference, a smaller group of us had the opportunity to visit some of the migrant worker groups supported by GHF, which is one of the very few grantmaking foundations in China, making it a “precious” resource, according to one of its board members.  GHF personnel are the first to admit that there is work to be done in terms of strengthening staff capacity, ensuring more community participation in the governance structures and expanding the funding base. But meeting grantees of the foundation, local groups run by migrant workers providing childcare and advice on rights etc, and hearing about how the foundation had provided not just grants but also technical support and advice, had linked them to other groups and brought their issues to the attention of local authorities (all potentially tricky stuff in China), I had no doubt that this is a foundation that aspires to be for the community and of the community in its very essence, which in the end is what community philanthropy is all about.

It will be interesting to see whether emerging organization in the community philanthropy field (the Yangjing Community Foundation in Shanghai is another interesting example) will be able to thrive in the space currently given to them by the authorities and to what extent that space is allowed to expand if government authorities can come to regard community foundations as more of a benefit than of a threat.

Jenny Hodgson

Executive Director, GFCF

The matter of international development cooperation

Over the course of the last year or so, there have been a series of conversations led by various philanthropic networks (including WINGS, the European Foundation Centre and netFWD), foundations (including the Ford Foundation, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation) and the United Nations (UNDP) about the role of philanthropy in global development after 2015, which marks the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). I must confess that, although I had read reports of some of the meetings that have been held to advance this agenda and had also completed surveys on the subject as requested, I had not followed the process very closely. Neither the MDGs nor the “post-2015 agenda” feature very prominently in my everyday work with community foundations and community philanthropy organizations around the world.

So it was with some interest that I travelled to Istanbul a couple of weeks’ ago to participate in a conference, “International Development Cooperation: Trends and Emerging Opportunities – Perspectives of the New Actors”, organized by Tika, the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, and UNDP. Although, the “new actors” in question were generally those countries that had recently transitioned from being beneficiaries to donors (such as China, Mexico, Russia etc.), there were also two sessions that looked specifically at the role of philanthropy and of the private sector.


Our session, on “Global, regional and local philanthropy as an emerging contributor to development cooperation”, was moderated by Ed Cain from the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, which has been actively engaged in encouraging greater collaboration between foundations and the UN. Heather Grady (ex-Rockefeller Foundation, who is currently working as a consultant on the Hilton / UN process), presented highlights of her thought-provoking, extremely thorough and very concise paper, “Philanthropy as an Emerging Contributor to Development Cooperation”, which argues that philanthropy should not be seen as a “gap-filler” for Official Development Assistance but rather that:

  • It brings a complementary and beneficial set of new actors, approaches, and types of funding;
  • The value of a philanthropic portfolio is that it enables one institution, even with modest resources, to simultaneously, and over time, test and support disparate organizations and interventions. This is an essential contribution to the immense undertaking of development; and, finally,
  • Given the growing importance and enthusiasm around South-South cooperation and linkages, the burgeoning philanthropy originating in the Global South, which has not been well-documented, is particularly important to explore and analyze.

Five of us – all of whom, in different ways, represented emerging philanthropic sectors in the Global South – were invited to comment on Heather’s paper, as well to reflect upon:

  • The extent to which we, in our work, routinely took into account international goal-setting and multilateral development frameworks and processes (such as the MDGs);
  • What our experiences had been of efforts to build bridges across sectors (a need identified in the background paper); and,
  • What concrete steps could be taken by governments and UN agencies to deepen meaningful engagement with the philanthropy sector.

In discussing these questions, there was general agreement that there was little reference to the MDGs etc. in panellists’ everyday work. Gayatri Divecha, from DASRA, which works with Indian philanthropists and social entrepreneurs, and Naila Farouky (Arab Foundations Forum) agreed that, although their partners and constituents may indeed be working on issues of gender equality, universal primary education etc. (MDGs 2 & 3), the language and framing was very different in that it was much more rooted in the local context than in universal frameworks.

As for efforts to build bridges across sectors, Rana Kotan, noted that the Sabanci Foundation, had partnered with the UNDP on particular programmes and Helena Monteiro of WINGS talked about the Global Philanthropy Data Charter as a concrete example of philanthropy seeking to be more open and proactive in both capturing data and sharing it in ways that might foster great collaboration and co-learning.

For the GFCF, which itself was the product of a partnership between private philanthropy and the World Bank, the Global Alliance for Community Philanthropy (GACP) is itself a recent and important example of “bridge-building” across different parts of the philanthropic and development sectors. The GACP brings together a cross-section of different kinds of institutional donors (which currently include the Aga Khan Foundation U.S., the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, C.S. Mott Foundation and USAID), each of which has an interest in how fostering community philanthropy as a specific development strategy can enhance development processes and outcomes. Each partner is investing both resources and staff time towards the pursuit of a joint learning and development agenda over five years, which will be facilitated by the GFCF. If we talk about building bridges between philanthropy and development it is this kind of intentional investment over time that is required, rather than the occasional one-off event where foundation or UN representatives (for examples) cross over into each other’s “foreign turf” to speak at a conference or seminar.

Three final thoughts on the conference:

The matter of language: I am a native English speaker and have been working in philanthropy and development for 20 years and yet, at times, it was a challenge to keep up with all the acronyms and terms bandied about. I felt as though I needed a timeline and / or “cheat-sheet” that captured the basics of different UN agreements summarised into city names – “Paris”, “Busan”… plus all the conferences in between (“before Istanbul”, “since Mexico”). The experience really served to remind me of how easy it is for all of us – despite our best intentions – to fall into the trap of using language, not to build bridges and engage others, but rather to exclude them, leave them out.

The matter of gender: Speaking of leaving people out, the conference was notable for the astonishing lack of women in plenary sessions. Fortunately, the head of UNDP, Helen Clark, is a woman (so she at least moderated the opening plenary), but it was a little dispiriting to see plenary after plenary made up of almost all men. (Interestingly and perhaps rather surprisingly, it was the side session on development and philanthropy that reversed this trend, with no fewer than six women!)

The matter of philanthropy: Finally, I was interested to be reminded of how other parts of the development sector have some degree of latent distrust of philanthropy, both as non-transparent and non-accountable, but also as a symptom of the failure of government wealth distribution mechanisms and of growing income inequalities all over the world, which have created a new class of ultra-rich. Although I would argue strongly that community philanthropy offers a unique platform for modelling good governance and accountability and of acting as a “democratizing force” for philanthropy in general, it was good to be reminded that, again, words – unless they are carefully used and meant – can create barriers and elicit suspicion.


Jenny Hodgson

Executive Director, GFCF

What’s next for community philanthropy?

It is appropriate (and no doubt deliberate) that launch of the “What’s Next for Community Philanthropy?” toolkit has come half-way through 2014, a year that sees the Cleveland Foundation – America’s first community foundation  – mark its centenary. Now I should probably say that the extensive toolkit, which has been produced by Gabriel Kasper and his colleagues, Justin Marcoux and Jess Ausinheiler at Monitor Institute, has not really be designed for someone like me. I do not work for a community foundation in the United States, and U.S. (and Canadian) community foundations are really the main target audience for this suite of tools and essays. So my comments and observations on the toolkit are framed by my vantage point at the Global Fund for Community Foundations, a global grassroots grantmaking organization, working to support the development of community philanthropy worldwide.

Evolving concepts, changing terminology: Let’s start with “community philanthropy”.  In my everyday work, I find myself constantly juggling language and terminology, driven by a desire to be inclusive and yet specific, to use the right kind of language that will resonate in particular contexts, that captures the essence of what happens when the magic ingredients of local asset mobilization, grantmaking for community development and multi-stakeholder governance combine together under one institutional roof. Unlike in the U.S. and Canada (where community foundations alone can be counted in their hundreds), there are far fewer of these types of organizations (whatever they are called) in most of the rest of the world, and so by focusing on one particular institutional form, you end up with very small numbers. So although community foundations form a large part of our constituency (and we even prioritise them in the name of our own organization – a fact that is not lost on me), we have always embraced other forms of “community philanthropy institutions”, including women’s funds, local grantmakers, environmental funds etc. So I was pleasantly surprised (and also curious) to see that the more inclusive “community philanthropy” is used throughout the toolkit (defined as “community foundations and other community philanthropy organizations”).

A global world – fact not choice: One of the perils of working locally (and most community philanthropy organizations tend to be place-based) is that it is easy to become inward-looking and insular. The excellent essay, “Shift Happens: Understanding how the world is changing” does a great job in providing a succinct overview of six different types of global trends that are having a profound effect on the nature of communities. If you are a community foundation leader or board member in need of evidence to convince your colleagues that the community that your foundation was set up to serve is no longer the same, and to find examples of how other community foundations are responding, then this document, which provides excellent sources as well as cogent examples, will save you many hours of Internet searches. Although much of the specific data is geared towards a U.S. audience the essay demonstrates to any reader how global trends (both good and bad) are driving huge changes in our communities the world over.

Community foundations as specialist generalists:  Community foundations tend to make grants across a range of different portfolios. This is well understood within the community foundation field, but it can sometimes like to outsiders like a lack of focus or being overstretched in terms of technical expertise. (In fact, I once got involved in a very long rather heated conversation with a U.S. immigration official in New York, who doubted my professional credentials because he was very sceptical about the community foundation idea, insisting that all philanthropic organizations and NGOs should have a focus – he suggested water, healthcare or education – and that it was poor form to try to do everything in a community). What the toolkit also highlights in its examples is quite how specialised and sophisticated specific programmes clusters and approaches have become within the community foundation field. In our grantmaking at the GFCF, we have also been looking at how to deepen community philanthropy practice around particular issues (such as youth engagement or the environment) so that community philanthropy organizations can deliver excellent programmes but within the context of a broader, holistic and networked approach.

A launching point for a more linked-up global field? Certainly, there are some valuable tools in the kit that a community foundation or community philanthropy organization anywhere in the world could use to test assumptions, stimulate reflection and inspire creative thinking (although for those community foundations operating in contexts where local giving is still very nascent, the level of sophistication around different kinds of donor services might still seem like wishful thinking). It is also good to see strategies that have been adopted by many of our community foundation partners, often driven more by innovation and instinct than blue-print, are listed and named in the tool kit.  So when in the “Bright Spots” tool, which looks at “Promising approaches in community philanthropy”, there is a question, “What if you solicited small gifts from less affluent individuals?”, I think immediately of Odorheiu Secuiesc Community Foundation in Romania which created a “Community Card” programme through which over 13,000 donors give small amounts each month. And another “bright spot” on “Sharing Community Information”, asks “What if you conducted routine check-ups of your community?” which takes me to a recent blog by one of our partners in Ukraine. Moloda Gromada (“Young Community”) is based in Odessa, which has seen its own fair share of violence which resulted in the deaths of 42 people on May 2nd 2014. The foundation’s director Inna Starchikova describes how, following the violence, the foundation conducted a survey to “check the state of health” (her words) of the community by asking people about how they saw their own personal role in allowing the violence to happen and their thoughts on how future violence might be prevented.

What’s next for “What’s next”? A separate essay, which focuses specifically on examples of community philanthropy innovation from the global field, is in the pipeline and I look forward to that. And finally, I wonder whether this kind of reflective, big picture exercise might provide new opportunities for those community foundations, wherever they are in the world and which are interested, to create spaces for engagement, solidarity and collaboration. Although there may be huge differences in the financial asset bases of community foundations in different parts of the world, it seems to me that energy, innovation and commitment to community-driven development are plentiful the world over.

Jenny Hodgson

Executive Director, GFCF

Troubleshooting not troublemaking at the first youth community philanthropy global summit

In fact, throughout the course of this one day summit, held 17th June in Chicago, there were plenty of “T” words thrown around: time, talents, treasures, trust, transparency and ties were just some of the others. Organized by the Council on Foundations and the Council of Michigan Foundations with support from the C.S. Mott Foundation, the summit brought together more than 50 youth philanthropy practitioners and enthusiasts from 14 different countries to gain a broader understanding of innovative approaches in youth community philanthropy and to begin building links between these actors.

The morning examined the “what” of youth community philanthropy: various approaches around the world and what strategies are proving to work well (and which aren’t). During the first panel, with speakers from Brazil, Romania, and the US, it became quite clear, quite quickly that the challenges experienced in encouraging individual youth constituencies to contribute their time, talents and treasures resonated across borders. As Anderson Giovani da Silva, CEO of ICom in Florianopolis, noted: “Failures are best when they happen quickly.” But as in real life this just isn’t the case very often, Summit participants eagerly shared and listened to each other’s anecdotes and experiences from the different corners of the world represented, keenly digesting the practical learning from peers grappling with the same issues.

Digging deeper into substance, the ensuing Table Topic Talks (at which point it was impossible not to notice the alliterative pattern running throughout the day) delved into the “how” of the work. What tools are proving to be successful in day-to-day work? Giving circles, YouthBanks, Youth Advisory Councils, crowdsourcing, cash mobs were all explored by those with plenty of experience and lessons to share, and those just beginning to test the waters. A brilliant presentation from Gabriel Marmentini, a student and social entrepreneur working with ICom, succinctly expressed what matters most in online crowdsourcing: trust, transparency and ties. Drawing from his own experiences in Brazil he emphasized that one cannot overstate the importance of being clear in your goals, communicating how funds are being used throughout the process (not just at the end in a snazzy report), and using existing networks to help spread your message and reach new partners.

Challenges around terminology and language recurred throughout the day. Firstly in the use of the word “youth”, as it seemed for as many people as there were in the room there were as many understandings of who we were speaking about when we used the word. Use of the word “philanthropy” was also debated heavily: in some contexts it is somewhat off-putting as it suggests an old way of operating, and doesn’t go far enough in capturing all of the different activities that today’s youth engage in to uplift their communities. Adina Ana Cristea, from YouthBank Romania, stated that she “would rather see people doing things than stopping to define them.” In other contexts, participants noted that using a recognized word such as “philanthropy” offers legitimacy and a greater sense of trust in the value of youth voices.

Afternoon sessions focused on how the field can be advanced more coherently moving forward, and participants offered that further, more regular, efforts should be made to share youth community philanthropy models, best practices, and other information on a global level. Practitioners seem to learn best from exposure to new environments and situations, so mediums should be generated for this exchange – while additional face-to-face meetings, perhaps organized on a regional basis, would serve to keep stakeholders in contact). More difficult questions included: how to raise the profile of youth philanthropy outside of the sector, in order to draw more attention to the field and its potential; how to build greater trust in the value of youth voices (moving away from the stereotypes of troublemaking youth); and, how to ensure voices from different parts of the world, emerging economies in particular, are heard as youth philanthropy grows as a concept.

But despite the diversity of those present, differences in terminology, language, approaches, beliefs, there was one overarching theme emerging from the day: youth around the world are ready to take on the challenge of uplifting their communities. Everyone agreed that the secret ingredient to youth philanthropy, why it is so important, is that it moves away from the traditional sentiment that young people are the future but rather gets them involved in their communities, in giving, in decision-making, not in the future but here and now.

Local philanthropy of Federal importance: Community foundations in Russia

The growth of community foundations across the Russian Federation is captured in a handy new infographic and a more detailed report, “Local Philanthropy of Federal Importance: Community Foundations in Russia.” This updated information has been brought to the field through a partnership of CAF Russia, the C.S. Mott Foundation and the Russian branch of Evolution and Philanthropy. The report was launched in May 2014 at meetings in both Moscow and Tyumen (Urals Region). Larisa Avrorina, Manager of CAF Russia’s community foundation development programme, explained that the research which identified some 45 community foundations, working across 27 regions of the Russian Federation, probably underestimated the number of such bodies. In reality, there is an additional 13 organizations that are using a community foundation model and approach, although not necessarily identified as such.

Over recent years there has been a clustering of community foundations for support and exchange purposes. The largest clusters were noted as the 15 community foundations in the Volga Federal District; 14 in the Siberia District; and six in the north west District which includes Saint Petersburg.  Interestingly the initial attempt made to establish a community foundation took place in Moscow in the early years of the 1990’s, but this floundered. The Togliatti Community Foundation, which was launched in 1998, remains the longest surviving Russian community foundation in existence, and has acted as a role model to many that were developed more recently.

Seven distinct characteristics were identified from the research as shared by the community foundations studied:

(i) Building social capital (trust and relationships) and a sense of community;

(ii) Acting as centres for local development and fundraising;

(iii) Engaged in promoting civic activism;

(iv) Creating a new philanthropic culture and traditions;

(v) Proactively contributing to a sense of community responsibility and engagement;

(vi) Providing a knowledge hub on local community issues, needs and opportunities; and,

(vii) Offering a neutral space for negotiation and partnership between the local administrative authorities, business interests and community activists.

This latter role is further reflected in the reported structure and composition of community foundation boards: 43% business, 37% community and 20% government representatives.  The majority of business interests involved came from the small and medium sized sector that had a close identification with their local communities.

Local philanthropy, local leadership

One of the current trends identified in the report was the fact that community foundations are emerging not only in urban areas but also in areas of small rural settlements. Out of 18 new community foundations established since 2008, 13 of them have been rooted in rural areas. This development was supported by World Bank investment in a “Local Self-Governance and Civil Engagement in Rural Russia” initiative, which recognised community foundations as a key infrastructural element and helped with the creation of the first alliance of rural funds across Perm Krai.

The importance of credible local leadership was also identified as an important aspect in the creation of a sustainable community foundation.  This can take the form of a single leader of some local standing, or a group of people who have sufficient authority with representatives of local elites to coordinate activities with regard to priority issues, but also have an understanding of the social innovation that is required. Putting in place an efficient organisational framework that has the capacity to mobilize a broad base of local philanthropy is also seen as a prerequisite for positioning community foundations in the area of donor services. This may apply to independent philanthropists, but also to the larger donors in the field of corporate social responsibility and indeed sources of municipal and federal government. Interestingly, while international grants are still listed as a funding source, the resources and opportunities in this area are now rather meagre. A shared challenge for many of the community foundations is finding the funding to meet their administrative and organizational costs, although these on average now amount to only 15% of their overall expenditure.

Priority areas of work

Over 90% of the community foundations support initiative groups in their local communities. This stands in marked contrast to those philanthropic organizations that prefer direct operational programmes. The main priorities for the awarding of grants include funding for organizations working with vulnerable groups and projects aimed at improving the local environment and quality of life more generally. Focus groups and other forms of community consultations are organized to inform the nature of local priorities.  While the standard grants awarded are small in monetary terms, it is argued that they are invaluable for building a sense of community self-esteem and participation. In a number of the remoter rural areas where there are few community-based organizations, the community foundations themselves act as community development centres. A re-invigorated emphasis on evaluation and the assessment of impact has also emerged as a recent trend. The Regional Alliances of Community Foundations have supported collective initiatives to map social well-being and community needs.

The study notes that with the honourable exception of the Ministry for Economic Development, there is still considerable work to be done in raising the profile of community foundation work with other government structures; a task that will require considerable time and effort. Such profile raising could also usefully take place with major corporations. What is important, however, is that there is now a growing evidence base to allow that task to be addressed in a positive manner.

Read the report “Local Philanthropy of Federal Importance: Community Foundations in Russia”, available in English and Russian  

L. Avrorina (ed. L. Tikhonovich) CAF Russia, 2014

UK Community Foundations’ challenge to business

UK Community Foundations’ Enrich List – a play of words on the Sunday Times Rich List – has calculated that £49 billion (more than USD $84 billion) annually could be given to support communities across the UK, if all businesses donated the average corporate donation of £10,000 (USD $17,150). This is based on the fact that there are currently 4,895,655 businesses in the UK, although many of them are either small or medium sized in nature. Nevertheless, there is considerable room to grow corporate philanthropy that can be effectively managed by local community foundations. At present some 846 corporate donors have been identified across the network of 46 community foundations in the UK. These account for 17% of new funds (in monetary terms) – some £7.8 million (USD $13 million) – that have been set up within community foundations. Although the largest corporate donors gave an average of £290,000 (USD $500,000), there has been a marked growth in smaller business that give £25,000 (USD $42,000) or less through their local community foundation. These latter contributions are valued as bringing with them local networking opportunities and the potential to raise the profile of the foundation’s work.

Commenting on the findings, Stephen Hammersley, CEO of UK Community Foundations, remarked: “Businesses have a vital role to play in supporting their local communities. While many already give generously, if more could be done to unlock donations, the potential for lasting change is huge.  With even a fraction of the potential £49 billion, our network could address some of the biggest issues facing our society today.” In 2013, community foundations in the UK made over 20,000 grants, distributing over £62 million (more than USD $100 million) to local causes. The total managed endowment stood at £380 million (USD $650 million), an increase of 13% on the previous year. The majority of funding across the network still comes from trusts and foundations (27% including dormant trusts), private sources (25%), with the next largest funding source being the business sector (17%). There is a clear benefit to those businesses that wish to demonstrate their commitment to investing in communities where they are based, and from where they draw their employees.

The Case for Community Philanthropy – now available in Czech!

The Case for Community Philanthropy: How the Practice Builds Local Assets, Capacity, and Trust – and Why It Matters, is now available in Czech. The report makes the case that increasing local ownership and local accountability leads to stronger communities and should be a main focus of  development aid practitioners. The community philanthropy approach works at the grassroots level  by looking at local assets (financial and otherwise) and by building capacity and trust for addressing  community needs and priorities.

Translations of the report are now available in 13 different languages!